After 20 years, Goddard school chief to retire

GODDARD — Charles Edmonds' office is neatly packed with pictures and mementos from the past 20 years, accumulated during his time as superintendent of Goddard public schools.

But a simple, framed piece of white paper with black printed letters held his attention during a recent interview.

"Change happens where we wish for it or not," the credo reads, one of many motivational statements in his office.

"I have a drawer full of them," Edmonds said, pointing to others on his wall and bookshelves, "but that's the main one."

Edmonds is retiring, leaving a legacy that saw Goddard schools grow from about 2,000 students to 5,180.

"When I got here, we could fit all of the staff members in a little theater that didn't hold more than 250 people," Edmonds said. "Now, we use the high school auditorium that has a capacity of 1,000 and we get close to 700 people in there."

Edmonds, 68, will work his last day on June 30. Before coming to Goddard, he spent 12 years as a principal and superintendent of Basehor-Linwood public schools and three years as principal of El Dorado High School. He was also a building-level administrator in the Shawnee Mission school district.

Nearly every district building standing has been expanded, constructed or repurposed during Edmonds' tenure in Goddard.

In managing that growth, he said, the district has been well served by school board members and district officials who worked together to serve the common good, rather than helping only groups focused on their particular needs.

"Democratic decision-making has been a cornerstone," Edmonds said.

Asked what has defined Edmonds, Goddard school board president Doug Griswold said, "Consensus."

"Building it, achieving it, making sure we have it before we drive on," said Griswold, who has worked with Edmonds during his 10 years on the school board and, before that, on parent committees.

When Edmonds announced his retirement, Griswold said, three thoughts went through his mind.

"One was 'Good for him.' As much as I would like for him to stay around forever to make our jobs easier, the time was right. Good for him," Griswold said. "Two, was, 'Dang, we've got to replace him.' And third, I thought, 'Our job just got a little more difficult.' But it's the most important job of the school board to select the superintendent."

One challenge that Edmonds said the district handled admirably came in 2002, when teens at the King's Camp facility for juvenile offenders were moved for daily education from the center at Lake Afton to Goddard schools.

At the time, Edmonds said, backlash erupted from residents who worried that the juveniles would harm other students. But the district reported no serious incidents linked to the juveniles.

"To use the Chicken Little analogy: The sky was going to fall, and it didn't," Edmonds said. "It was a real tribute to the people we hired and the people we already had on staff."

Edmonds said he is unsure of his plans. He will have a superintendent license for a few more years, but doesn't want to take another job, he said.

The Goddard school board has named three finalists to replace Edmonds: Dan Peters, Scott Springston and Justin Henry.

Peters is superintendent of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, previously was superintendent of Renwick public schools and was an assistant principal in the Wichita school district.

Springston is superintendent of Valley Center public schools, and Henry is superintendent of Southeast of Saline public schools.

Goddard district spokeswoman Annette Singletary said the school board hopes to make a decision by Dec. 13.

For the person who will replace him, Edmonds had a simple piece of advice, something he said he tried to do his first days on the job:

"Spend a good amount of time listening and let people do what they tend to do best — talk," he said with a laugh.